Memorial of Saint Monica
1 Thessalonians 4:9-11
Today we remember St. Monica, known as the mother of St. Augustine, but also famous in her own right. It was her motherly care and constant prayers that moved her son to embrace the faith.
Saint Monica was born in North Africa in 333. Her parents were Christian, however, there is very little known about her childhood. We do know more about her married life. She was married by arrangement to Patritius, a pagan official in North Africa, who was much older than she, and although generous, was also violent tempered. Monica’s new mother-in-law lived with them and was equally difficult, which proved a constant challenge to Monica.
Monica’s marriage, perhaps predictably, was an unhappy one. Monica and Patritius had three children, two boys and one girl. Her husband would not allow their children to be baptized. When her older son, Augustine, became very sick, her husband agreed that he could be baptized. However, when Augustine regained his health, her husband withdrew his consent.
St. Monica was very concerned about Augustine’s lifestyle and his bitter temperament. She prayed for him daily. When he was sent away to school, he chose to become a pagan like his father. Through her patience and prayers, she was finally able to convert her husband and his mother to the Catholic faith. Her husband died a year later. Perpetua, her daughter, and her second son, Navigius, entered the religious life. St. Augustine was much more difficult, as she had to pray for him for 17 years, begging the prayers friends who, for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless endeavor.
Monica followed Augustine to whatever town he traveled. She visited the local churches continually begging for prayers for her son’s conversion. She appealed to Saint Ambrose to intercede, which he did and finally Augustine became a Christian. He was baptized in the Church of Saint John the Baptist in the town of Milan. Later that year (387) on their way back to Africa Monica died at the age of 54. Augustine later became Bishop of Hippo and served the Church for forty extraordinary years.
This simple woman who cared and prayed so much became the patron saint of married women, mothers, housewives, widows, alcoholics, abuse victims, difficult marriages, and disappointing children.
In today’s Gospel the faithful servant who was given a gift of five talents, through hard work turned it into ten. In response his master said, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy." Let us pray through the intersession of St. Monica for family members and loved ones who are in any special need. The powerful prayers of St. Monica have been at work for centuries in the Church!
Fr. Jim Strommer, C.P. is stationed at Christ the King Retreat Center and community in Citrus Heights, California.